Janine Southwood Talks Vic Falls, Livingstone and Hwange

When I get to travel around Africa, I always try and picture it being my first time…..to experience the emotions of what a first time traveller might be thinking, stepping onto the tarmacs of Africa … And although I can’t recall how many times I have landed in Victoria falls, I can say that the same excited feeling returns each time and I am completely envious of the first time traveller.

To sum up the beauty of Victoria Falls….  The Zambezi River, which is the 4th largest in Africa’s, rises in the Woodlands of Zambia and travels for 2 574kms through Zambia, Angola, Zimbabwe and finally through Mozambique emptying into the Indian Ocean. For 500kms it forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Together they share the most famous point, the Victoria Falls. While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls is classified as the largest, based on its combined width of 1,708 metres and height of 108 metres – resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water.

Not forgetting that the sheer vastness of the Zambezi River and its long course, is simply beautiful and incredibly tranquil, watching the daily life of its inhabitants and the locals living off the river, is most fascinating thing to watch and learn.  Nothing is interrupted by modern technology. It daily life in its simplest form and everyone is out to survive the day.

Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) is without question becoming the central hub for the region binding Chobe, Livingstone and Victoria Falls together…. something it has been aiming to achieve.  With the new airport up and running, this is slowly but surely becoming a reality and perhaps even starting to take some traffic away from OR Tambo International Airport as a result of SA Airlink and Kenyan Airways’ direct Cape Town/Vic Falls Routing.   There are several new lodges opening up and its truthfully quite often hard to keep up with how much is happening – all being good news!

This destination is becoming far more than just a 2 or 3 night stop. Time permitting it makes for a great itinerary to spend at least 2 to 3 days based in/or around town, exploring the Falls and tackling some of the adventures on hand as well as experiencing the local cuisines and getting to know the locals and being immersed into their day to day lives – than heading off to Zambezi National Park for a 3 night stay exploring the river and the reserve.  This makes for a great combo package.

Accommodation wise, Victoria Falls has something for everyone no matter the preference or budget.  Whether backpacking at hostels or looking for a stay in a glamorous 5 star lodge privately located on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, the options are limitless.

The development of 5 star lodges in and around town is creating quote a buzz.  Currently you have the following:

Elephant Camp:  This lodge is a luxury tented camp located in the woodlands of the Victoria Falls National Park giving a bush experience but with breathtaking views of the Victoria Falls mist and its horizons.  About 20 minute drive from town.

Stanley and Livingstone: This lodge is located in the 6 000 hectare Victoria Falls Private Reserve bordering the Zambezi National Park and around a 10 minute drive from the town centre  – 16 luxury suites offer an authentic bush experience.

Gorges Lodge/Little Gorges Lodge: A 30 minute drive from town, located on the Batoka Gorge, you will find 10 thatched chalets.  Gorges Lodge and 5 luxury tents, Little Gorge is located in one of the most scenic and spectacular locations.

Victoria Falls Hotel: This grand and historic hotel has a prime location overlooking the Falls and is perfect for strolling around town. The Stable Wing and up is perfect for the guest looking for high end accommodation. Its recently been refurbished and looking lovely.

Ilala Lodge – Again the position of this hotel is perfect for The Falls and being amongst the buzz of town.   Their deluxe and executive rooms are top of the range.   I recently had dinner at Ilala Lodge and we had elephants come strolling past – safe distance away but lovely to hear these gentle giants quietly pass by.

Of course all the hotels offer great dining options whether included or additional.  It’s well worth it to venture into town too as there are several fabulous vibey restaurants around – some great new options with some offering live jazz or local bands:

  • Shearwater Café
  • Three Monkeys
  • Zambezi House
  • The Lookout Café
  • Rainforest Café
  • The Boma

Then you have the Zambezi National Park – this conservation park belongs to Government and is around 56 000 hectares in size.  The border to the north is the Zambezi River so guests can enjoy either a game drive or canoe trip/sundowner cruises.  The drive from Victoria Falls town is around 20 minutes to the gate of the Zambezi National Park.  Just to sit on your private deck and take in the beauty of the river is enough on its own.  A good book, sunscreen, a hat and definitely binoculars is all you need to complete an incredibly experience and the opportunity to take in the sounds and sights of the river in absolute silence.

  • The Zambezi River is home to 75 species of fish, including bream and tigerfish
  • The Zambezi National Park is home to a vast range of wildlife: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, sable antelope, eland, waterbuck, and smaller wildlife

Luxury lodges found within the park situated alongside the Zambezi River are the following:

Victoria Falls River Lodge:  This lodge offers 8 Luxury Tents and 5 Family tents – breathtakingly beautifully done – tented with private decks and plunge pools.  Very spacious rooms.

Victoria Falls Island Suites:  Brand new camp opened up opposite Victoria Falls River Lodge on a private island. Rooms are built on stilts.  All with plunge pools overlooking the river – gently decorated in natural colours and local flavours of Africa.

Zambezi Sands:  Further down the river is Zambezi Sands – around 1 hour from town. 8 secluded Bedouin luxury tents and activities offered include game drives. Boat cruises, fishing, canoeing and walks.

Chundu Island:  Chundu Island is a private island around 1.4 long.  This new lodge will be ready around 01 November 2017.   It is being created with as much natural resources and minimum interruption to the surroundings.  Rooms are built on raised wooden decks – and covered by a double wall of canvas with generous window space, ensuring panoramic views.  Palm thatched roofs complete the island ambience. There are 6 suites and 2 family suites.

Great Plains – Great Plains have taken over the site of Wild Frontiers Pioneer Camp – currently it’s just a site and construction will start in the next few months – hoping for opening around April 2018.

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